Asked if he would press ahead and put the bill into its committee stages, as well as stay in office, if the bill received its second reading only with Tory support, he said: “To get through the legislation and say ‘now I should quit’ – I don’t think that is very sensible.”
John McDonnell, secretary of the Campaign Group, reacted angrily: “Mr Blair is cutting himself loose from the Labour party and forming a national coalition government with the Tories. If he can do it on this issue, he can do it on others”.
The only trouble with this argument is that Blair cut himself loose from the Labour Party years ago. As I wrote in 1997,
Blair is not simply right-wing, in the sense that Gaitskell and John Smith were right-wingers: indeed, Blair has dismissed the Gaitskellites as the right wing of ‘old socialism’. To find another Labour leader so eager to meet the Conservative agenda halfway you would have to go back as far as the leader of another neologism, National Labour; and Blair, unlike MacDonald, has taken almost the whole of the Labour Party with him.
Which is precisely the tragedy of the Labour Party. Thankfully the Tories have now given up the futile quest for habitable ground to the Right of New Labour – and found a leader capable of playing Baldwin to Blair’s MacDonald. (Playing him for a fool and wrecking his party, that is.) I’m afraid it’s all that either Blair or the Labour Party deserves now.
(But remember, from 1931 to 1945 was only fourteen years.)